And a new tournament began every few minutes.
I was well aware, of course, that I was "supposed" to play for a while, lose my dollar, but then become so enamored with the experience of playing real money online poker that I'd deposit more money. And if I lost that, well, I could only win it back by depositing more, right?
I had no intention of being one of those people though. If I lost my dollar, so be it.
I had mixed results at first, rather like my attempts at the casino. I'd fail to get in the money in a couple times, then I'd win twenty or thirty cents, then lose some more. In tournaments, as opposed to "standard" poker, most of the time you're going to lose your entry fee. Soon my original dollar was down to thirty cents.
I was frustrated. Only three buy-ins left. I took a break for a couple weeks. I re-read my poker books. When I returned, I felt ready.
I entered a tournament, and lost ten cents. Thanks to some bad cards, I never had much of a chance.
I entered another. Lost again.
Only ten cents left. Well, I said to myself, this is it. If I lose, I'm done--it means this just isn't the game for me.
The next tournament did not begin well. Bad cards after bad cards . . . soon I had only half of my original chips left.
But I didn't give up. Patience, I told myself. Eventually some good cards came, I made a couple key bluffs when I was confident another player had nothing, a good break here and there and . . . I finished third.
Third! I had just turned ten cents into four dollars.
The breakthrough had come. A few tournaments later, I finished first. Suddently my PokerStars account had over ten dollars.
Soon I was moving up from the ten-cent buy-in tournaments to the one-dollar buy-ins, and kept winning.
In January, when my account rose over $150, I decided to make sure that I could actually, like, get the money. I "cashed out" for half of my winnings, $75, and sure enough a check came in the mail a few days later.
I kept playing. Kept winning.
However, before you start sending all sorts of congratulatory comments my way, you should know that underneath all of this success, there's a problem, and it's a problem that it's taken me a while to be able to admit.
I have been playing way too much online poker.
As in, several hours a day of online poker.Last Friday I got a call offering me some substitute teaching opportunities a couple weeks hence. I was, at the time, in the middle of a poker tournament, and I continued to play during the course of the conversation. I accepted the offer but hung up the phone thinking, Damnit. This will give me less time for online poker.
A long-dormant voice (perhaps the "Angel" from two posts ago) awoke in my consciousness, saying, "Dude. Can you, like, hear yourself? I mean, seriously."
To which I could only respond, "Yeah, I hear myself. And no, I don't like it either."
Something was wrong.
I got out my Tarot cards and did a reading, trying to figure out what was going on. Of particular note was that the "crossing card," representing my current challenge, was . . . The Devil.
I logged back onto PokerStars and went to their "Responsible Gaming" menu (a feature I must give PokerStars real props for having) and requested a 7-day self-exclusion from playing.
Since that time, I've felt . . . free.
Which brings us to the present. I'm about to do something, which, quite frankly, has been difficult. I'm logging onto PokerStars and clicking on "Cashier."
I have just over $175 at present. Add that to the $75 I've already cashed, and that's $250, all starting with the single dollar I started with three-and-a-half months ago.
It more than makes up for the money I lost at the casino.
Perhaps it's, well . . . enough.
Account Status: $0.00.
Goodbye, PokerStars. Hello, world.